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Umbilical hernia

Introduction

Umbilical hernias are a form of hernia commonly (but not exclusively) occurring in babies. Where the abdominal wall isn't strong enough to hold the intestinal tissue, the umbilical hernia appears as a bulge near the belly button.

Causes

In babies, an umbilical hernia occurs when the umbilical cord muscle remains open after birth.

In adults, the abdominal walls may be weakened by any number of factors with the hernia resulting from one or more of the following:

  • Being overweight.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Persistent coughing.
  • Abdominal surgery.
  • Heavy lifting.

Symptoms

The symptoms of an umbilical hernia are often painless and may be as simple as a bulging mass visible near the belly button. An umbilical hernia will more than likely cure itself by the time a baby reaches four-years-old.

Pain and discomfort around the navel area may be present in some children. If vomiting, fever or severe pain occurs, seek urgent medical attention as this may be a sign the hernia has become strangulated or incarcerated.

Diagnosis

Umbilical hernias can be diagnosed visually after a physical examination. An ultrasound or CT scan of the abdomen will provide more thorough imaging analysis to decide on a treatment plan.

Treatment

The treatment prescribed for an umbilical hernia depends on the severity.

In many cases, hernias in babies repair themselves and don't require treatment. Surgery may be recommended if the hernia hasn't healed by the time the child reaches four years old or if complications arise such as severe pain or vomiting.

If an adult has an umbilical hernia for longer than two years, surgery may be necessary. If no pain or discomfort is experienced, adults can often push the mass back through the abdominal wall.

Strangulated or incarcerated hernias require immediate surgery. Always consult medics if the patient experiences severe pain in the abdomen or around the umbilical hernia.